Mobile devices have cut the mustard as the first tool of choice against the PC. Despite their deficits, they are now poised to become the universal device many people will chose to work with. This trend, driven by end users, was predicted some time ago. But the displacement is happening faster than many anticipated and is now catching the PC manufacturers.  One quarter of the world population already has a smartphone and Forrester expects this number to rise to over 40% in 2017*. And they have an impact on the business world. One third of business leaders expect that more than 75% of their employees use a smartphone regularly for work today, only 18% of them believe that the same is true for laptops**. 

The latest quarterly figures of manufacturers also speak a clear language. Classic PC and laptop producers like HP, Fujitsu and Dell face restructuring, even Microsoft numbers are down. Meanwhile, Samsung Electronics is generating € 6bn through consumer electronics, a large part of this is due to smartphones, in a single quarter. The numbers also suggest that Samsung is now challenging Apple in a two horse race. Between the two manufacturers, all three established mobile application platforms Android, Microsoft and i-Tunes are covered. But such developments could turn fast with new entrants. Remember, it’s not even a  decade ago that Nokia was carefully observed by regulators for holding over 40% market share with mobile handsets.   The likely scenario that smartphones and tablets take over is  is posing challenges to many organisations. They need to embrace mobile devices as more than an extension for the classic desktop. Users will expect increasing capability to access corporate systems, UC, text and tabular programmes. 
Now is the time to leverage the potential of smartphones and tablets for efficient mobile workflows. One fundamental building block are cloud based services accessible via mobile devices. The mobile workplace must be embraced as a full working alternative to the desktop. The biggest remaining challenge for the IT department remains:  
  • to administrate and manage mobile devices inside of compliance guidelines and empower these devices to be used for every system needed by the employee.  
Full mobilisation of the workplace can be achieved through a mixed combination of two emerging worlds: 
  1. Virtualization of the desktop: deliver classic office applications out of the cloud via a browser based interface. Citrix and VM Ware are vendors offering these capabilities. 
  2. Mobilisation of the most important workflows via mobile apps. The key to success is good usability, full integration with corporate backend systems and the right approach to data protection in an online and offline usage scenario. 
Both approaches require careful planning, a careful audit of your current mobile estate and the selection of the right partners to empower the smartphones and tablets used by your employees as the main access tool for future workplace services. 
Managed service providers are now starting to offer a 360 degree view on managing the mobile workplace through virtualization and application integration. But this is the very beginning. Network infrastructure, security, application services and many more aspects of the current IT estate need to be aligned too. If you are looking for external sourcing, there are various options to choose from as leading players are gearing up to service this new market: 
  • Mobile enterprise carriers including Vodafone and Orange are now starting to embrace productivity applications for the enterprise market
  • Mobile enterprise integrators including T-Systems, Atos and Computacentre are now gearing up their offering to include virtual desktop services
Whether you are looking to source from a network service provider or classic IT integrator will depend on your preference to virtualize the entire desktop or whether to mobilize individual applications: 
  • Network service providers are the most experienced in managing mobile devices including tarrifs, security, central application distribution and communication services.  
  • IT service providers are more experienced in taking you on the road from classic desktops to virtual interfaces accessed through smart devices. 

In our forthcoming research, we will focus on the leading players and the first comprehensive services. 

*Forrester Research World Smartphone Adoption Forecast, 2012 to 2017 (Global)
**Forrsights Networks And Telecommunications Survey, Q1 2013, 2144 respondents